Photos, story by Kimberly Hundley
Just three years ago, Gemini Air Group was managing a single airplane out of intimate offices and a leased hangar near Scottsdale Airport. In sort of an effortless glide toward growth, like a rare orchid marching toward inevitable bloom, the boutique management company’s management numbers have since ticked up to five aircraft. Earlier this year, Gemini also earned its own charter certificate, with all planes under management available for charter with as little as four hours notice.
Providing the organic, driving fuse has been Gemini president and owner Tim Carpay’s easy, Canadian manner. If Mounties road the skies, they’d exude the same kind of confidence, capability and likeability. Carpay, 57, hails from Vancouver and first pierced the heavens as a teenager in float planes, flying up and down Canadian’s west coast.
Before moving to Scottsdale in 1995, Carpay ran a nine-aircraft charter company in Vancouver. One of his clients purchased his own plane and asked Carpay to manage it for him in the “West’s Most Western Town,” and the move was made to Arizona. A couple years later, the client sold that plane, but one of the charter passengers who’d booked the owner’s aircraft bought his own jet and, impressed with Carpay’s performance, asked him to manage it.
“And every client we’ve had started as a charter client,” Carpay says. “They buy an airplane and put it with us. They like the way we do things.”
Gemini Air Group was officially born in 1997, named without fanfare for Carpay’s sun sign—“I never wanted a company with my name on it.”
The Gemini Difference
Gemini isn’t in the aircraft sales business, though they’ll assist current and future management clients in locating the right jet for their needs if asked. Managing an aircraft involves taking care of everything to do with the plane: pilots, mechanics, hangar space, and arranging charter flights to defray costs when jets would otherwise be sitting idle.
“We really focus on safety and service. We have full-time flight attendants, mechanics, pilots, so we can make sure we are providing the same type of service every time, and obviously we have a full-time charter person to take care of all that,” Carpay says. “I feel we provide more than most companies. If you use contractors, you just can’t teach them everything you want to teach them.”
All 22 of Gemini’s employees are full-time. Carpay himself will often pull pilot duty for owners’ trips, flying everywhere from Paris in springtime to Minnesota in darkest winter.
The company’s charter customers consist primarily of 15 regulars, with “quarter-share companies—the NetJets of the world” relying partially on Gemini to provide backup for their fleets in case of overflow.
Starting in 2011, business began to accelerate, the trigger coinciding with nearly a 50 percent drop in jet prices from 2008. “First a Challenger showed up … about a year and half later, the next one came alone,” says Carpay. “It just happened organically. Some of the clients we knew for years decided to buy airplanes.”
Gemini’s fleet of five consists of two Challengers, two Hawker 800s and one Global Express. The latter—which Carpay helped a client purchase this fall—was a huge coup for the management company. The large-cabin jet, capable of flying to London or Paris nonstop, is the only Global Express based in the Airport. Due to its hulking size, Carpay houses the plane in leased hangar space from nearby Signature Flight Services.
Gemini now leases two and a half adjacent hangars behind the office, expanding into space that became available at just the right times. The privately owned property is “behind the fence/Airpark,” and has its own fuel farm and an access road to the runway. Unlike the FBOs, which are right at Scottsdale Airport, Gemini doesn’t have to pay city of Scottsdale flowage fees, which saves their clients quite a bit on fuel costs.
Though Carpay would like to someday invest in a larger, consolidated office/hangar space to facilitate operations (and he’s got some ideas), his vision for expansion is modest.
“We’re kind of at a point where we want to stop for a while,” he says. “I never wanted to be a big company. I want to grow it maybe one more airplane. You can’t provide the same kind of service if there are too many airplanes.”